How To Identify A Narcissist Before They Become A Problem

When it comes to narcissism, we like to think we have a good eye for that sort of thing. Maybe some of you read my previous post and are listening more to feelings of uneasehow they use micromanipulation, or how most of these individuals are not that great people.

Even though narcissists are victims in their own sense, many can’t stop themselves from having these tendencies. And when it comes to less narcissistic people, we don’t always tend to notice those things. As I mentioned in my popularity post on narcissists, they initially leave great first impressions on us before squandering that goodwill once we become more interested in them.

This phenomenon becomes more complicated if the narcissist is someone we like romantically, is a family member, or we view the relationship platonically. In the early stages, any acts or traits they have are more obscure, to the point where we can’t detect them.

When someone’s attitude shifts, our natural instinct is to wonder what we did wrong rather than consider whether or not this person is a narcissist. Combined with the fact that narcissists are excellent at playing the victim, we can easily be misled.

And having great self-awareness doesn’t tend to help in this situation. Empathy for a narcissist means picking up on even the fake emotions they display very well. At the same time, it also means having the capacity to pick up on the various stages that a narcissist goes through.

As discovered by Erin Leonard, there are four distinct phases of controlling and conditioning that narcissists go through all the time. Here are those stages and how one can navigate through them to prevent narcissists from causing problems in their life.

Phase 1: Attraction

The reason narcissists go after emotionally intelligent people in the first place is that these are the individuals who display empathy and offer a sympathetic ear. To a narcissist, this is a match made in heaven since they always want to feel validated, needed, and supported.

Of course, everyone feels that to some extent, but narcissists place this as a much higher priority. Also, keep in mind that these can have both romantic and non-romantic connections.

This is the phase where you typically see the tactic “love bombing” used the most. Emotionally intelligent people enjoy getting flattery and will think of the person positively whenever it’s received. Combined with narcissists’ charm and attention-seeking, this tactic — which involves nothing but compliments and validation statements — subtly slips in.

It’s a valuable tool to build mutual respect between people. This continues until people are fully invested in the relationship.

Phase 2: Feeling Small

Both jealousy and inadequacy are two drivers of our behaviour. A narcissist will eventually realize that those they spend time with are more powerful than they are. On top of that, a narcissist places themselves in a mental position where they don’t know how to be like that person or have that particular trait.

Even though many of us have grown out of these feelings as adults, a narcissist retains many child-like characteristics. This is one of those aspects that was instilled in us as children but, for some, was never addressed during that time. It’s since shifted into something else as the narcissist grows older.

In this stage, narcissists resort to manipulation in response to feelings of jealousy and inferiority. An adult is able to comprehend that what other people have and what they desire are things that can’t be tangibly earned.

As such, they take advantage of someone’s trust, time, generosity, loyalty, and empathy. Often times, these are leveraged to isolate their victim. They talk behind their backs and turn their connections against them. Tactics like that.

Phase 3: Sabotage

Narcissism isn’t always about being self-centered. It tends to shift a lot once a physical connection is achieved. Narcissism is better described as:

A deep need for excessive attention and admiration, regardless of the negative consequences that fall on anyone involved.

Once you get to this stage, understanding how narcissists behave in this context makes more sense. At this point, narcissists become more enraged and will do anything to undermine someone. They’ll crack “jokes,” publicly humiliate them, or reduce and dismiss their achievements.

Even if you’re not very emotionally aware, being subject to this leads to internalizing ideas that what the narcissist is saying is the truth.

Phase 4: Emotional Abuse Disguised As Being Nice

Manipulation and gaslighting are some of the most effective tools that a narcissist has access to. In this stage, we see a lot of the behaviour that’s displayed by larger-named narcissists. The most notable example is the narcissist who acts as if nothing is wrong and nothing happened despite being in a rage an hour ago.

This baffles emotionally intelligent people who want to see the good in others. They then wonder if the toxic tendencies were exaggerated instead of real.

After all, we all have bad days, and some of us are not the best at venting. And thus the cycle is fully formed.

Finding A Narcissist Isn’t So Clear Cut

Just like any other mental disorder, narcissism isn’t black and white. We’re all on a spectrum, and some of us are higher up than others. The difficult part is being able to gain clarity as to what is happening.

You must take a step back and examine the behaviour, as well as begin keeping a record of it. When you begin to notice patterns, you will be able to piece them together; they’re not just in your head. This is real, and you can easily break this cycle.

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